Doctor Who – Flux Chapter 4: Village Of The Angels (S13E04) Review
VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS is, notably, the only episode of DOCTOR WHO: FLUX where the writing credits are shared, so it’s perhaps not surprising that it’s also the first episode of the season where the central story of the episode and the overarching series arc seems to be tripping each other up, rather than marching in lockstep.
Rebooting the TARDIS to force out the Weeping Angel – itself a rather cheap resolution to the cliff-hanger of the angels having the phone box which itself reached all the way back to BLINK, The Doctor finds herself stranded in the village of Medderton, on 21 November 1967 (notably another topical air-dating of an episode, although not the year), a village long known as ‘cursed’ following a mysterious mass disappearance in 1901.
There’s an air of Agatha Christie about the picturesque rural setting, including hints of pastoral intrigue, a central mystery and an assortment of inscrutable characters lurking around the wisteria. One mystery is that of a missing girl, Peggy, and while Yas and Dan join the search, the Doctor finds Professor Jericho’s laboratory where Claire (who we met briefly in THE HALLOWEEN APOCALYPSE) is undergoing psychic experimentation. But there are other creatures stalking through (and sometimes as) the tombstones of the church cemetery and with all roads out of Medderton closed for cosmic repair, it appears the trap is set. But a trap for who, and how and when will it be spring?
In classic DOCTOR WHO, this is a story which would have been called “The Cursed Village” and, more than likely, Professor Jericho would turn out to be Roger Delgado or Anthony Ainley in an unconvincing wig and prosthetics as he toyed with either Jon Pertwee or Peter Davison but this is modern WHO and so by convention needs to be a little more contrived and convoluted. VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS can’t be faulted for providing answers, certainly, but there is cause for complaint in the answers it provides, some of which merely prompt more questions and others which answer questions that didn’t and perhaps shouldn’t have been answered.
We do get to understand more of Claire’s nature – not that of a future Doctor, as rumoured – but a hiding place for a “Rogue” Angel, one who claims to have detailed knowledge of the Doctor’s past and The Division. The Division looms large over this bucolic base under siege story, oft times to the detriment of the narrative atmosphere which, when given room, is terrific. Among other things, it’s passingly implied The Division were the real reason The Doctor ran from Gallifrey in the first place but it’s in cementing the nature of the Weeping Angels as merely some more operatives of The Division. Not only that, but they’re not necessarily a species: they’re a state of being that can be embraced by or imposed on anyone. It tarnishes the lustre of arguably Doctor Who’s only breakout non-classic monster, reducing them to the role of henchmen to the as-yet-unidentified head of The Division, whereas their hazy origins as creatures that feed on time displacement gave them an unpredictable, eldritch air that’s been completely blown away by the need to tie them into the ongoing arc here.
Still, VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS – despite reinforcing the idea that with some DOCTOR WHO monsters less is more – is probably the third-best Weeping Angels story in the show’s history (BLINK being, of course, first followed by THE TIME OF ANGELS/ FLESH AND STONE) and the performances of the principle cast continue to elevate the material, helped this time by great guest turns from Annabel Scholey and Kevin McNally.
While, so far, series 13 has been the best that DOCTOR WHO has been under Chibnall, VILLAGE OF THE ANGELS brings us to that crucial point in the story where, having set so many things in motion, we’re getting to the point which has so often proved to be Chibnall’s critical weakness: sticking the landing. Even here the juggling is becoming noticeably clumsier, with the incorporation of the Bel/ Vinder storyline feeling asynchronous and detached rather than organic, requiring a disruptive post-cliffhanger mid-credits scene to push it forward. There are only two more episodes to go and while the episodes thus far are lovely, dark and deep, Chibnall has promises to keep – and miles to go before he can sleep.
With The Doctor incapacitated by Quantum Extraction, Yas and Dan marooned in 1901 and Vinder and Bel playing the physical equivalent of phone tennis, there’s a lot riding on what comes next. What is The Flux and who started it? What is The Division (notably they’re explicitly still current operational, not lost with the Time Lords of Gallifrey) and – one for greybeard fans out there – how do they differ from the Celestial Intervention Agency? Who are Swarm and Azure and what is their ultimate agenda? What’s the deal with Vinder and Bel? Are they The Doctor’s parents? Could Swarm and Azure be the Doctor’s parents? Could Vinder and Bel be Swarm and Azure in timey-wimey switcheroo? Will episode six actually resolve The Flux or will we be left on tenterhooks until New Year’s Day? At this point, there’s nothing I wouldn’t put past Chibnall.